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Pitching or position depth? O's draft a high school pitcher with first pick, but need all of the above

The Orioles took another promising high school pitcher with their first selection in the 2017 draft, which probably seems logical with the way the major league pitching staff has been taking some major lumps over the past couple of weeks.

It's a bit of a surprise considering that they figured to lean toward college pitching because of the urgent need to put more talent into the minor league pipeline.

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They probably made the right move, since left-hander DL Hall was rated much higher than 21st by some draft analysts, but they really couldn't go wrong taking the best player available at just about any position or experience level — except at the catching position.

That's the only position where the Orioles have their future mapped out. Otherwise, it should be open season for the club's scouting and player development departments.

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The Orioles obviously need pitching, but they also have a history of thin position depth in their system and no guarantee they will be able to keep their two best young position players — Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop — beyond the next few years.

Hall is the fourth high school pitcher the Orioles have taken among their past 10 first-round picks, and Dylan Bundy is the only one of the other three who is pitching in the major leagues. Hunter Harvey is coming back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction and remains a top prospect. Matthew Hobgood (2009) was considered a huge gamble at the time and never popped.

The 20 picks who preceded the Orioles' selection illustrated little bias based on position or experience. There were four high school pitchers taken ahead of Hall, including the Nos. 2 and 3 overall picks, and five high school position players, including No. 1 overall pick Royce Lewis (shortstop, JSerra High, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.). Five college pitchers were taken and six college position players.

The Orioles have leaned heavily toward pitching during this century, but it hasn't always been so. During the 1990s, they used eight first-round picks to choose outfielders, to relatively little positive effect. The only ones to reach the majors with the club were Jeffrey Hammonds and Larry Bigbie.

Ironically, the best outfielder the Orioles drafted with a first-round pick in the 1990s was Jayson Werth, and they drafted him as a catcher and watched him develop into a power-hitting outfielder elsewhere. The only outfielder the Orioles have ever drafted in the first round to develop into a premier player was Nick Markakis (2003).

Frankly, the Orioles haven't done any better drafting pitchers with their first pick. Since choosing Mike Mussina in 1990, they have not had a first-round pick develop into a cornerstone starting pitcher — as an Oriole — or a top-flight reliever.

Obviously, Bundy is starting to look like he might be that kind of starter and Kevin Gausman appeared to establish himself in the rotation last year. But neither has yet proved that he is this club's next Mike Mussina.

Three of the Orioles previous four first-round picks were position players, but Hall is the second straight pitcher. The O's picked University of Illinois right-hander Cory Sedlock last June.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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